– Woodrow Kroll
When I did a graveside funeral service for a departed loved one who had gone to be with the Lord, I said that it’s not really goodbye but see you later. The reason I can say this is because of what Jesus said about God, that He is “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Luke 20:37) which means “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Luke 20:38). Jesus speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still being alive and so they are. At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were there speaking with Jesus so it’s not goodbye; even for Elisha who cried out to Elijah in the chariot of fire. It’s really, see you later.
I use to travel a lot and it was always hard saying goodbye to my family and so it is at funerals, but again, if they are departed saints of God, it’s not forever but “until we meet again,” which is true of every believer alive. The Apostle Paul could boldly say, “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2nd Cor 5:8).
It may be a precursor to the resurrection that Daniel wrote about in chapter 12 but when Jesus died on the cross, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt 27:52-53), so we may be getting a glimpse of the resurrection that was made possible by Jesus death on the cross. Otherwise, I can’t explain why that verse is there except to give us hope in the coming resurrection that every believer in Jesus Christ has coming. At the graveside we know it’s not burial ground but resurrection ground.
Hope of the Believer
We are not like the world that does not know Christ. They have no hope beyond the grave but we have hope beyond this life and such a great hope that is. If “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1st Cor 15:18) then “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1st Cor 15:19b), “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1st Cor 15:20) and the hope we have is that “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [and] the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be change” (1st Cor 15:52).
For those who are not saved and lost a loved it, it really is goodbye, forever! Unless they repent and trust in Christ, they won’t only be separated from their lost loved ones, they’ll be separated from God for all time (Rev 20:12-15; 21:8). That’s why we must warn them of the wrath of God that is coming on all who refuse to repent and believe (Mark 1:15).